Aug 24 • 43M

Arizona Equals K.M.

Listen to an interview with attorney and civil rights advocate K.M. Bell

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Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.

In today’s episode, we talk with K.M. Bell, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Arizona and a long-time civil rights advocate. Topics include the importance and challenges of networking, the realities of a career as an attorney, the value of travel, and some of the daily choices queer professionals face.

Additional context for the conversation

Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast rooted in the idea that stories have power. Each episode, we sit down with an LGBTQ+ person living in Arizona to talk about their community ties and experiences in the state. Visit our website to listen to the full archive or to sign up to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast.

Full Transcript

00;00;00;21 - 00;00;09;19

Jeanne

Hi. Thanks for listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation. My name is Jeanne Woodbury and I'm the policy and communications director for Equality Arizona.

00;00;11;03 - 00;00;37;21

Jeanne

Arizona Equals is an interview podcast rooted in the idea that stories have power. Each week I sit down with an LGBTQ+ person living in Arizona and talk with them about their communities and the experiences they've had in the state. Today on the show, I talk with K.M. Bell a staff attorney for the ACLU of Arizona. Just recently, we hosted a town hall with K.M. about the Maricopa County attorney election.

00;00;38;04 - 00;01;01;11

Jeanne

Like all of K.M.'s work, I found it thoughtful, thorough and informative, and I'd encourage everyone to check out the recording of the Town Hall, which you can find on our website at equalityarizona.org/events-archive. If you're looking for other ways to get involved with Equality Arizona, our monthly Spectrum Academy event is this Saturday, August 27th.

00;01;02;05 - 00;01;27;00

Jeanne

You can sign up today at equalityarizona.org/events. In our conversation, K.M. and I get pretty into the weeds and we also cover a lot of ground. From Alan Dershowitz to Burning Man. So I've provided a lot of links for additional context in the shownotes. One of my favorite parts of the conversation was our discussion about code switching and about picking our battles as queer professionals.

00;01;27;10 - 00;01;47;24

Jeanne

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. So for now, I'll let K.M. introduce themselves and get the conversation started.

00;01;52;10 - 00;02;22;11

K.M.

I am K.M. Bell. I use they/them pronouns. I'm a staff attorney at the ACLU of Arizona. Although I should say at the outset that any opinions expressed in this podcast are mine alone and do not represent the views of the ACLU or any other organization I'm affiliated with. Outside of work, I perform occasionally as an improv comedian and a theater in Tempe called The Bridge, and also enjoy yoga and playing with my cat.

00;02;23;01 - 00;02;24;22

Jeanne

Wonderful. Thanks for being on the show.

00;02;25;06 - 00;02;25;29

K.M.

Thanks for having me.

00;02;26;10 - 00;02;48;08

Jeanne

I saw that you changed your title recently in your job, so I wanted to congratulate you on that and also ask. We had worked together at the Capitol. That's not always a fun time going to those committee meetings and listening to what can feel like nonsense for hours. Are you transitioning away from that kind of work and what are you going to be doing now?

00;02;48;29 - 00;03;13;14

K.M.

I am. Yeah. I started my career as a judicial clerk and then as a civil and criminal defense litigator on the East Coast in Maryland. And then I started doing policy work because I wanted to keep people out of my office in the first place. So for several years, I worked to reform our country's marijuana or more properly, cannabis laws.

00;03;14;02 - 00;03;35;27

K.M.

And that was a great experience it is such a common way that people get caught up in the criminal justice system. And the criminal justice system is quite biased against black people. LGBT people are also very overrepresented in the criminal justice system. And as you mentioned, I was doing lobbying here in the state of Arizona and I focused on criminal justice reform.

00;03;36;14 - 00;03;53;08

K.M.

I really wanted to get back to litigation and the sort of highest and best use of my legal training. So I'm very excited to have the opportunity to do that with the ACLU and hopefully be able to challenge some unconstitutional laws.

00;03;54;03 - 00;04;04;22

Jeanne

When you got started in that kind of policy work around cannabis laws, was that something you were doing while you were still on the East Coast in Maryland, or did you come here to start that work?

00;04;06;00 - 00;04;30;27

K.M.

Well, I was working for a national organization called the Marijuana Policy Project. So that organization works across all of the states. At one point I was covering a dozen different states, and with registered lobbyists in four of those, most actively in Maryland and New Jersey, which as you can imagine, the political scene there is a bit different than what we have here in Arizona.

00;04;30;27 - 00;04;31;19

Jeanne

It's a little.

00;04;31;19 - 00;04;48;24

K.M.

Just a little. So I was doing state level lobbying, but on a narrow band of issues across a bunch of states. Whereas of course, the ACLU works on a lot of different issues and at the state affiliate in one state. So it's sort of the inverse of what I had been doing before.

00;04;48;29 - 00;05;09;28

Jeanne

Right. I think I feel a little ill equipped to ask questions about like, what's the career path of someone who gets a law degree and does a clerkship? I think I would really appreciate it. And probably listeners like me might appreciate, like what is that path look like and kind of like a general way and what did it look like for you?

00;05;10;21 - 00;05;35;14

K.M.

I actually spoke to a master's in social work class here in Arizona, specifically about the career track to working in policy. And I have talked to a number of people out of going to law school who don't actually want to practice law, as you know, because I believe you are also not an attorney. You can be a lobbyist without being a lawyer.

00;05;35;20 - 00;06;09;22

K.M.

You can't be a litigator without being a lawyer. So there's that consideration. I had the misfortune of finishing my law school and my clerkship in 2008 when the economy tanked. And so finding any job was quite challenging at that point. I always tell people to really give some thought to exactly what it is they want to do and reach out to folks who are in that field.

00;06;10;18 - 00;06;43;17

K.M.

They want to lobby on LGBT issues, and so they reach out to you, you know, and have a conversation with people who are working in the field, because the reality of what it's like is not necessarily what you imagine. And it's really good and important to develop a network early on, which I did not do because I graduated from law school when I was only 23, having only ever worked like summers waiting tables in a restaurant.

00;06;44;02 - 00;07;00;05

K.M.

So I don't advise coming out of law school with that little idea of how their professional working world works. So if anything, I would tell them to learn from my perhaps errors.

00;07;01;06 - 00;07;23;25

Jeanne

So what was the decision then? I mean, that's I think people I've met who have gone into law school, usually it's later, at least by a few years in their lives. And it can be kind of a long process of preparing for that. It seems like you were able to get into that really quickly. So what was your kind of thought process or intention behind that?

00;07;24;06 - 00;07;27;05

K.M.

I knew I wanted to work at the ACLU when I was 13 years old.

00;07;27;15 - 00;07;29;26

Jeanne

Oh, that's amazing. It was like a childhood dream.

00;07;30;14 - 00;07;53;23

K.M.

Yeah, I am pretty sure that I was seven. I — very small when somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I thought I was going to say like ballerina or something. And I said, Supreme Court Justice. So even my parents were like, What? I think part of it honestly was when I was in middle school was when the O.J. trial was happening.

00;07;54;15 - 00;08;41;29

K.M.

And so there was a tremendous amount of national interest and attention to the criminal justice system and to jury trials that captured a lot of people's imaginations. And I was also watching a television show about defense attorneys called The Practice. It used to be a little more balanced than just law and order, which is, of course, about prosecutors and the police and is not terribly realistic, as I'm sure will not be shocking to your listeners to hear, not just unrealistic in terms of of some of its portrayals of what the lawyers do substantively, but also just procedurally.

00;08;41;29 - 00;09;08;20

K.M.

Like I can tell you, I've never in my life walked down a hallway and dramatically handed the prosecutor a blue piece of paper. That is not how that happens. What happens is you stand in line at the clerk's office and a bored looking person stares at you while you put some paperwork into a stamping machine that stamps it and then put it into like a little mail basket, which is much less exciting for TV viewers to watch.

00;09;08;21 - 00;09;27;12

Jeanne

Oh, absolutely. So you had that dream as like a seven year old and then you had a much more specific plan as a 13 year old to work for the ACLU. Where do you get those ideas? And then like before you even go to college, what's the way that you're able to kind of actualize on those ideas?

00;09;28;06 - 00;09;52;21

K.M.

So Harvard Law School put out a recommended pre-law reading list, which I started on when I was in middle school. I read probably half a dozen books by Alan Dershowitz, who was on O.J. Simpson's dream team and was also at one time associated with the ACLU. This was long before he was arguably an apologist for torture for the Bush administration.

00;09;53;15 - 00;10;18;08

K.M.

And part of why I don't look up to people anymore, but I was a big fan. I was a big fan of him when I was in middle school. The only thing you have to do to get into law school is to get good grades in college. And actually, it doesn't matter what your major is, unlike medical school, where obviously you need to like know some biology and chemistry and things like that before you get there.

00;10;18;25 - 00;10;42;13

K.M.

So I majored in art history because I liked art history and I already knew I was going to law school and I got pretty decent grades. Not as good of grades as I got in high school or in law school because I had a lot of fun in college, but sufficient to get me into law school. I went to the University of North Carolina and my parents lived there.

00;10;42;13 - 00;10;53;18

K.M.

And so as a result of that, I got in-state tuition, which is a great deal. Then you don't have to rely on fulfilling the requirements of public interest loan repayment programs.

00;10;53;29 - 00;11;01;02

Jeanne

Right. I'm a little familiar with that. That's just the idea of some amount of service.

00;11;01;02 - 00;11;17;17

K.M.

Yeah. If you work for I think it's like ten years for a certain government or public interest jobs, you can get your your loans forgiven, but there are certain requirements and you have to work at a nonprofit that meets those requirements.

00;11;17;25 - 00;11;18;07

Jeanne

Right.

00;11;18;07 - 00;11;25;27

K.M.

So I was able to actually just pay off my loans because I went to a state school rather than a private school where I would have had three times as much debt.

00;11;26;02 - 00;11;26;13

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;11;26;25 - 00;12;00;12

K.M.

Law schools are cash cows for a lot of universities. Unlike other graduate programs, we don't have T.A. positions. So you can't work to earn anything off your tuition. You just pay it all. And there are like something like 150 law schools in the country of, in my opinion, wildly varying degrees of quality. They don't fail people at out like they used to because I think they they want the tuition money, frankly.

00;12;00;17 - 00;12;10;23

Jeanne

It sounds like maybe there was like a little bit of a process of disillusionment then going through the actual machine and not delivering the wonderful blue paper in a dramatic way.

00;12;11;07 - 00;12;42;04

K.M.

Oh, yeah. Well, I believed that if I worked hard and I was smart, that I would get a good job following law school. And that is at least post 2008 recession. Not true universally. So there was certainly some disillusionment with job hunting during what they're now calling the Great Recession and then again during COVID. Yeah, so absolutely. I think that's true.

00;12;42;05 - 00;12;56;19

K.M.

The the employment statistics that they give you when you apply for law school are not entirely accurate. And in fact, a lot of lawyers don't make a lot of money during the recession. There were folks working at Starbucks to get health insurance.

00;12;57;17 - 00;13;12;21

Jeanne

Well, I know a lot of trans people who have specifically said, I have this advanced degree, I'm going to go work at Starbucks to get benefits because I can't get trans inclusive care from other jobs. So sadly, kind of a common reality.

00;13;13;23 - 00;13;25;02

K.M.

Yeah. The ACLU of Arizona has a case right now about whether or not the university health plan is required to cover gender affirming care.

00;13;25;03 - 00;13;26;27

Jeanne

So this is in Arizona?

00;13;26;29 - 00;13;27;10

K.M.

Yes.

00;13;27;20 - 00;13;40;19

Jeanne

Okay. Oh, that's fascinating. How does that how does something like that come about? And then I don't know. It doesn't sound like you're involved in that one. But now that you're litigating again, how does that kind of process unfold?

00;13;41;24 - 00;14;12;05

K.M.

The ACLU in a very general level, gets cases from a few different methods. We have an intake form on our website of sometimes just the general public reaching out to us to let us know of a legal issue that they're facing. Sometimes the legislature does something that we decide we want to challenge right away. So there's a there's a number of different ways things come to our attention.

00;14;12;06 - 00;14;30;29

K.M.

Also, other organizations that we work with that are out in the community working with impacted individuals like Equality Arizona or HRC or Saga, those different or partner organizations that might bring something to us and say, Hey, somebody that we work with is having this issue.

00;14;32;10 - 00;14;52;13

Jeanne

I've asked for your insight on things in the past, and what you've given me has always been amazing, super thorough. And I've I've told people about this and I said, I've said to them, you know, like K.M. is like the biggest law nerd I have ever met. And that's that saying something in my line of work and the people I'm around.

00;14;52;13 - 00;15;04;05

Jeanne

But I know that you're also just a nerd. I'm not trying to be cruel, but you mentioned that you do improv. How did you get into that? As a as a hobby.

00;15;04;25 - 00;15;08;20

K.M.

So I thought you were going to ask me about Dungeons and Dragons. And we can go there too.

00;15;08;21 - 00;15;09;24

Jeanne

We can go there, too.

00;15;10;20 - 00;15;40;02

K.M.

I started doing improv when I was 16 years old at the local comedy Sports, which is a short form improv franchise. They have them in cities all across the country. I went to a show, I really enjoyed it. I started taking classes there and then started performing. I was the youngest person in the group and one of the only quote unquote girls that was there.

00;15;41;20 - 00;16;11;11

K.M.

This was before women were funny. This was before Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And a lot of the not that women in comedy still don't have a difficult time, but things have gotten much better than they were over 20 years ago when I was 16. So. So that has been great progress to see. I did improv for a few years and then it's been off and on over, over many years.

00;16;11;11 - 00;16;32;10

K.M.

So it had been a long time before I decided to get back into it again. I will say it is great training if you want to be a trial lawyer or a lobbyist. People ask me sometimes I like, Aren't you nervous to get on stage in front of all those people? And I'm like, Look, if I bleep this up. No one's going to prison. This is easy.

00;16;33;12 - 00;16;48;13

Jeanne

How was that then? You know, I think youth as well as gender can also be a thing that disadvantages you in a situation like that where you're trying to get people to take you seriously. I mean, even if you're trying to get them to laugh at you on some of what you're trying to get them to take you seriously.

00;16;48;16 - 00;16;54;22

Jeanne

How did you deal with that? Or did you run into a lot of problems as a young and then female person?

00;16;55;00 - 00;17;32;12

K.M.

I mean, thankfully, I was never sexually harassed, at least so there's that. I will say I was relegated to the matinee shows at the theater that I started at, and there was another theater and it owned by the same person in a different town, like an hour away that was run by a husband wife team. So there was a woman involved in running and she would put me in mainstage shows, so I would drive an hour each way to go over to that theater. So I had the chance to perform at a higher level, and I do think that there was some, you know, gender at play there.

00;17;33;07 - 00;17;37;26

Jeanne

And then getting back into it. How recently did you get back into improv?

00;17;38;06 - 00;17;46;06

K.M.

Well, since I moved to Arizona, which was during the pandemic, so not a terribly long time actually.

00;17;46;17 - 00;18;08;03

Jeanne

Yeah, that's I think, a really interesting thing that I when I've talked to people, those kind of two moments that you've mentioned, the recession and then the pandemic always highlight in terms of, you know, major life moments. I've talked to people who have graduated right at the beginning of the recession and come out during the pandemic or move during the pandemic.

00;18;08;22 - 00;18;17;05

Jeanne

I think moving during the pandemic is something that happened to a lot of people, but it's a really interesting decision. What was behind your move?

00;18;17;27 - 00;18;59;29

K.M.

So I was in a, suffice to say, non-career track job overseas when the pandemic hit, which wouldn't have been a big deal. Except then I had a job during the pandemic, so I came back from the excursion a little early and was back in the D.C. area, which is where I'm from, living with some friends riding out the waves of COVID and looking for a job online. It was very odd because you can't do traditional networking right when everyone's stuck at home. So.

00;19;01;03 - 00;19;03;16

Jeanne

So just through an online job search you found.

00;19;03;20 - 00;19;47;29

K.M.

I found the previous role that I had at the ACLU of Arizona. And I had been out here before when I was doing the van life thing. And traveling around the country. At some point I realized I'd been to Japan but never been to New Mexico, which was kind of silly. So I decided to move into a truck and travel around and stay with different friends and go to some national parks and go camping and check out more of the United States. And so I came to Arizona, loved the Sonoran Desert, gets absolutely beautiful here. So I had already in fact, I was actually in the state when I got the job.

00;19;48;15 - 00;19;54;00

Jeanne

Oh, fascinating. Was this during the pandemic that you were traveling around or. That was that was previous.

00;19;54;01 - 00;19;55;07

K.M.

This was the before time.

00;19;55;07 - 00;19;58;22

Jeanne

Okay. How long did you do that?

00;19;59;22 - 00;20;11;25

K.M.

A little over a year altogether. Was broken up by some other things. I went to South Africa for a few months, so I've been really lucky to be able to do as much traveling as I as I have.

00;20;12;06 - 00;20;18;29

Jeanne

Sounds like you've actually traveled quite a bit internationally also. Is that through work or just your own interest?

00;20;19;00 - 00;20;49;28

K.M.

Oh, no. So I got quasi-laid off of a job and took what was supposed to be the down payment on a house in Baltimore and backpacked around the world for a year and a half. So essentially I took like a belated gap year when I was like 29, which is amazing. So I went to Australia, Southeast Asia, Central and South America on that trip, and I've done some other travel as well.

00;20;49;28 - 00;21;19;19

K.M.

I did a semester abroad in law school. So for folks that are able to do that, oftentimes the flight is the most expensive part of the journey. And then if you're able to go to a more affordable place, particularly somewhere where there's a good exchange rate, can really explore a different culture. And it opens up a lot of insights. I think, to interact with a culture that's so different from your own.

00;21;20;26 - 00;21;30;05

Jeanne

Do you feel like that's one of the biggest things you get out of travel is connecting to different communities or cultures in the places you go?

00;21;30;05 - 00;21;34;03

K.M.

I also am an avid scuba diver.

00;21;34;23 - 00;21;35;14

Jeanne

Oh, fascinating.

00;21;36;01 - 00;21;39;26

K.M.

So not a culture, but definitely another world down there.

00;21;39;26 - 00;21;40;25

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;21;40;25 - 00;21;53;26

K.M.

And it's fascinating how strange some of the creatures that live under the ocean are and how little we know about them compared to even the they say we know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean, right?

00;21;54;04 - 00;22;18;13

Jeanne

Yeah, I've heard about that. I feel like this is just a never ending series of things to learn about your life. It's kind of amazing. And now you're here in Arizona. You did travel here. It does sound like it was an interesting part of your travels, but on some level, this doesn't really fit with a lot of the rest of the things. How has that been for you being here for kind of now an extended period of time?

00;22;18;13 - 00;22;36;28

K.M.

It has been quite the culture shock, particularly given that D.C., according to a chart I saw in The Economist once, is the second most liberal city in the United States after San Francisco. So it was a big change.

00;22;37;07 - 00;22;37;16

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;22;38;01 - 00;22;48;07

K.M.

Coming here, I like to joke that there was a paperwork snafu and somehow I didn't get my gun when I crossed the border. So somebody should file a complaint.

00;22;48;07 - 00;22;49;14

Jeanne

Somebody's got to look into that.

00;22;49;25 - 00;23;01;23

K.M.

Yeah. And moving during the pandemic, I'm sure, has been a challenge for anybody doing that, particularly as a single adult.

00;23;02;13 - 00;23;02;22

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;23;03;12 - 00;23;17;23

K.M.

With folks being, you know, in their bubbles or whatever you want to, however you want to describe that. So it's certainly been interesting. In fact, you know, it was months of work before I even met all of my colleagues.

00;23;18;15 - 00;23;41;09

Jeanne

That is an experience I've had to I started working at Equality Arizona during the pandemic, and I think it was six months before I met anyone in person, like you were saying. Also moving as a single adult, everyone's kind of cloistered away, especially earlier in the pandemic. Were you able to find community right away or is that something that took a lot of time?

00;23;41;09 - 00;23;53;05

Jeanne

I know now you have, like you said, D&D that you do. You've got the improv that you've been doing. Were those the main ways you found kind of outside of work community to connect to or.

00;23;53;28 - 00;24;34;04

K.M.

Most of the Dungeons and Dragons and I'm playing is actually online. So people from different parts of the country actually and that was something that I got interested in during the pandemic and it certainly was a huge benefit to me to have that escapism during the pandemic into this silly fantasy world, but also to be able to connect with people in different places through something and make the online zoom, socializing more fun than just sitting, you know, being ahead in a box yet again.

00;24;34;04 - 00;25;11;06

Jeanne

Right. It's something that's actually collaborative and creative. I've talked to a lot of people about their like online experience. The pandemic is a big part of that. It's also something I've talked about with people who are neurodivergent and they find community online more easily and then queer people where I think, you know, like me for example, I probably met most of the first trans people I ever met through Twitter and then now D&D, which I think is great as just like an online phenomenon, which I hadn't even thought of, I kind of picture like you go over to someone's house and you get the table and you fill out the sheets and everything.

00;25;11;18 - 00;25;39;06

K.M.

That is the traditional way I will say that since Wizards of the Coast bought the rights to the game and especially since more recently, they've been trying very hard to address some of the historical issues with Dungeons and Dragons and concerns about misogyny and racism and things like that. Shocking, I know, in a in a fantasy.

00;25;39;12 - 00;25;40;07

Jeanne

Unfortunately.

00;25;41;17 - 00;26;13;09

K.M.

So that has been evolving. And the D&D community as a whole has been evolving a lot. And there has been a lot of new interest recently, I think with the pandemic and everything, you know, finding community is, is certainly a challenge. Um, I can't say that I've completely solved that riddle. If I had, I'd probably be a millionaire consultant or something.

00;26;13;09 - 00;26;34;23

Jeanne

Right. There's no real answer, I think. But it does seem like with D&D it's gotten a lot more diverse. With comedy, clearly, it's gotten a lot more diverse. I think you were talking about that a little bit. Um, both of those things. I think historically people would have the impression of like, okay, well, this is just like a bunch of white guys.

00;26;34;23 - 00;26;51;15

K.M.

All of my hobbies are hilariously, hilariously white. We haven't gotten to Burning Man yet, but that could go on that list too, of things that are actively trying to diversify their community.

00;26;51;27 - 00;26;58;22

Jeanne

I'd love to hear about that. Um, Burning Man, it's not something I've ever gotten to talk about with anyone who's actually been. So I — What was your experience?

00;26;58;22 - 00;27;27;21

K.M.

So I guess I have to give the disclaimer again that I don't in any way represent their views either. So I started going to I started going to burner events in 2009 and really loved the local DC community. The first time I went to Burning Man, it was disaster. I tried to like go to a local event telling you what to expect and read the packing lists and all that stuff.

00;27;27;21 - 00;27;58;05

K.M.

But I still didn't pack the right things or and it was really challenging for me to put myself out there trying to meet new people to that extent for that extended of a period of time, because it's a week long event and I am a naturally shy person who has fought tooth and nail very hard for many years against that. So I've come a long way, even since since 2010 was the first time that I went. But it was rough. By Thursday I was like in tears.

00;27;58;05 - 00;27;58;20

Jeanne

Oh no.

00;27;58;27 - 00;28;16;06

K.M.

So it was really the local DC community that kept me engaged. And I got very involved in that. At one point I was on the board for a nonprofit that throws a couple of the regional East Coast mini versions of the event. I actually helped found one of those.

00;28;16;06 - 00;28;16;26

Jeanne

Oh wow.

00;28;16;26 - 00;28;24;03

K.M.

So yeah, I will be I will be going this year. I now work the event.

00;28;24;18 - 00;28;25;00

Jeanne

Okay.

00;28;25;00 - 00;28;34;21

K.M.

So I work harder on my vacation or maybe I shouldn't say that on a podcast. I work as hard on my vacation as I do in real life.

00;28;34;21 - 00;28;43;06

Jeanne

So I am just mathematically trying to figure out how all of your life fits into all of your lives.

00;28;43;17 - 00;29;31;29

K.M.

Well, it's funny because Burning Man used to have something of a reputation. I think it's way more mainstream now, particularly since there was an Art of Burning Man exhibit in Washington, DC that took over an entire museum at the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery. And that was the tipping point, I think, for, okay, this is a mainstream thing now, Grover Norquist wrote probably the best article I've ever seen in mainstream press about Burning Man, which I have said to his face. And for your listeners who don't know Grover Norquist as a very right wing political person, yeah, you can Google it for more information.

00;29;31;29 - 00;29;33;29

Jeanne

I'll put a link in the podcast show notes.

00;29;34;26 - 00;29;42;14

K.M.

So I guess what I'm getting at is I used to think of myself as as more of a superman Clark Kent person.

00;29;42;29 - 00;29;43;07

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;29;43;23 - 00;29;53;12

K.M.

Than I do now where I think that those things have come together a bit more. I'm just myself.

00;29;53;12 - 00;30;07;25

Jeanne

Yeah, I think that's, you know, not something I'm trying to push on, but I just love the whole picture of that and I get kind of that impulse of there's this side of me and there's this side of me, and I go into the phone booth and emerge. But.

00;30;08;09 - 00;30;37;24

K.M.

I think we all have that right. Like everybody is a little bit of a different person at work than they are with their spouse or they are with their friends that they've known since they were in high school or whatever the case may be. Everybody code switches to some extent. Yeah, some of us more so than others, particularly when you have a job like going into a courtroom.

00;30;38;10 - 00;31;03;28

Jeanne

Right. Do you find that your code switching between all of these things on on different levels like moving between, you know, you mentioned like the difference between getting up on stage and getting up in front of a judge or getting up in front of a committee of legislators. Those are all completely different modes of of speech and presentation. Do you feel that that's like a skill you have to work on?

00;31;03;28 - 00;31;32;17

K.M.

I think arguing to a court is definitely a skill that you have to work on. It is the pinnacle of being an attorney. I think to do oral appellate argument in front of what we call a hot bench, which means they're firing questions at you. If you've ever listened to a Supreme Court argument. And it's a tremendous rush and it's a lot of fun, but it is a very intense and very specific mode of communication.

00;31;32;17 - 00;31;32;27

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;31;33;26 - 00;32;02;08

K.M.

I think when talking to clients, I try, I try to treat people like people as opposed to being is some folks are going to be just very stiff and formal and that's how they present and that's fine. But I think I find I personally find it more effective to be as real as I can.

00;32;02;08 - 00;32;24;11

Jeanne

I think something I'm trying to understand is as a person who's in a lot of different spaces, do you feel that you get to bring everything you want to bring to those spaces or that kind of on the inverse of that, that some of those things lets you have the things that you want.

00;32;24;11 - 00;33;33;01

K.M.

I certainly have to pick my battles as a professional, particularly as a professional queer person. Perfect example. When I showed up to get sworn in, the judge was very confused and referred to me, I believe, as he. And then she and then he again clearly not sure what the appropriate pronouns were. And I could have stopped the swearing in with multiple attorneys and explained they them pronouns to the federal judge I chose not to in that moment. Yeah, there are certainly other times in dealing with attorneys in my career where it's come up, where I've said something at a meeting or something else, and then a man has said the exact same thing and then suddenly it's been a good idea. Right? It is exceptionally frustrating.

00;33;33;01 - 00;33;45;28

K.M.

There are times when it's worth pointing that out and then there are times when, quite frankly, if the group of opponents now thinks that your idea is a good one, you just shut up and move forward.

00;33;45;28 - 00;34;46;16

Jeanne

Oh yeah, right. I think it's difficult with pronouns. I deal with this. I don't use they them pronouns, but I don't have a presentation that leads people to think, Oh, here's an easy gender choice, right? When it comes to pronouns. And most of the time I don't like to introduce myself with my pronouns either, because I know that a lot of the time it's not going to be the conversation I want to have in that moment. I don't want to focus on, Well, you're not getting my pronouns right. But at the same time, if that's your entire professional life of people getting your pronouns wrong, and especially if you use they them pronouns, that's just going to be a daily reality of you kind of have to pick if it's going to be useful and how often you're going to see that person. And frankly, I think it can be kind of tiring, but it's the you know, the easy choice can just be to say, how am I going to deal with it? And then that feels kind of like a defeat, or at least to me. How do you see that?

00;34;48;00 - 00;35;48;05

K.M.

Yeah, it's funny, I got correctly gendered once the entire legislative session at the last Senate Judiciary hearing, and it was because I had never made a scene because. Also, you only get a minute and a half to speak, as you know, and I'm not going to spend that minute explaining my pronouns. To, quite frankly, a lot of people who don't care. I had had a longer conversation with one of the senators on the committee and had expressed that what my gender identity actually was. And as a result of that, Senator, kids are use the correct pronoun to refer to me once in a hearing, which I greatly appreciated. It's a hard line. I think this is something that I had already dealt with as a young female attorney.

00;35;48;21 - 00;36;25;20

K.M.

When you're dealing with sexual harassment or, you know, inappropriate comments, whether they rise to the official level of legal sexual harassment or not, but inappropriate comments ignoring you, what you have to say, as I already alluded to and in those situations as well, to a certain extent, you feel like you have to pick your battles. At the same time, you have an obligation to the folks coming after you to try to leave the profession and society better than you found it. So it's a hard balance.

00;36;25;20 - 00;36;43;23

Jeanne

True. I hadn't even thought of it that way in terms of, you know, who am I preparing the room for? Maybe I don't want to deal with correcting them on my pronouns, but then the person who comes after me has to make the same kind of bad choice I have to make. Right?

00;36;44;05 - 00;37;11;03

K.M.

Exactly. It gets easier as you get older and further along in your career because you're more established and therefore have a little more power and authority in those rooms. And it also is easier when you work at a place like the ACLU, which is obviously affirming and supportive, whereas somebody working at a certain law firm might not be. But it's exhausting.

00;37;12;07 - 00;37;19;28

Jeanne

And if you're going in and seeing different people every time, then it doesn't even necessarily stick. Right?

00;37;21;16 - 00;37;44;23

K.M.

We actually generated a document that is a pronouns 101 for legislators, which I am happy to share with you. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done in time for this session, but after watching lawmakers, I can handle it. But watching lawmakers misgender young people, teenagers.

00;37;45;02 - 00;37;46;24

Jeanne

Kids. I mean, really young people.

00;37;46;24 - 00;38;08;02

K.M.

Yeah, that to me is much more concerning. And so we wanted to make something that was very, very basic, 101. There's a lot of materials like that out there, but a lot of them assume, I think, more background knowledge than it's realistic to expect every legislator to have.

00;38;08;02 - 00;39;12;00

Jeanne

There's a lot of assumptions built into almost any kind of gender, 101 pronoun, 101 material. I've seen. And I think a lot of them kind of miss out on like our side of the equation of, you know, I think it'd be nice to see a guide of how to correct people and when that's a safe decision to make. Um, that's something that, you know, a kid going in there, maybe we can give to the legislators to make sure they don't ruin that kid's day, but some of them are going to ignore it. Some of them are going to not be able to learn from it at the pace we'd like them to. And, um, for those kids, I'd like to think there's some way to prepare them. Even if we can't prepare the room, how can we prepare them? Um, when you were at the beginning of that for you, what do you think would have helped, like the first time that you were dealing with a situation like that?

00;39;13;00 - 00;39;54;07

K.M.

I had a colleague at a previous job who started using they them pronouns long before I did so myself. So I had practice correcting my colleagues for them so that they didn't have to do it every single time. Yeah. And actually when I started using they them pronouns, it was initially I offered myself as a practice round for people that weren't used to using they them pronouns even before I fully switched. So I would correct people so that they could practice. So for people for whom it was extremely important, they would be less likely to mess up.

00;39;54;13 - 00;39;55;24

Jeanne

Oh, that's fantastic.

00;39;56;15 - 00;40;10;21

K.M.

I came out relatively late after law school to a resounding chorus of Duh. So a little bit late to the realization, I guess.

00;40;11;00 - 00;40;16;05

Jeanne

Yeah. So just fully into your career at that point that you came out?

00;40;16;22 - 00;40;51;02

K.M.

Yeah. So I came out as bi when I was already done with my clerkships and working at a law firm and actually got involved in the LGBT Bar Association. In Maryland, and actually I just got back from the National LGBT Bar Association Conference. Um, which was a great experience to be around other professionals from all across the country and, and learning about new developments in the law, but also just the social aspect, of course.

00;40;51;02 - 00;40;59;15

Jeanne

Yeah. Do you see that that's something that's similar to your experience that other people are having that same kind of problem across the country?

00;41;00;11 - 00;41;21;04

K.M.

Yeah, well, particularly at the, the National Trans Bar Association, um, which I just happily joined, just being around other people was just a tremendous benefit and like sense of community, I think. Yeah.

00;41;22;22 - 00;41;46;04

Jeanne

I think we're going to have to wrap up there because it's five, but I guess I just want to thank you for being on the podcast. I liked what we were able to talk about. I know that probably I could have gone down any of the paths and we would have had a really interesting conversation. So I wish we had been able to talk more about D&D, to be honest.

00;41;46;04 - 00;41;51;17

K.M.

Well, we can still do that. It just won't be recorded.

00;41;51;17 - 00;42;12;00

Jeanne

Okay. We definitely did talk a little bit more about D&D after the episode. I hope that you enjoyed listening to this conversation as much as I did. If you'd like to catch up on past episodes of the podcast, you can find the entire archive at equalityarizona.org/stories, or you can also sign up to be a guest on a future episode of the show.

00;42;12;00 - 00;42;35;00

Jeanne

If you're enjoying the podcast, please consider subscribing. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or in any podcast player. And if you really love the show, please consider leaving a review for the podcast. It helps with our search ranking. And personally, I always love to hear from our listeners.